Here’s a depressing insight about pitching from an experienced TV insider:
“You know that ten minute chat before the pitch starts, that bit when you talk about your flight and the traffic and the kids. That’s the pitch. That’s when the commissioner is working out whether you are someone they can do business with.”
So the crucial decision is made during the small talk.
Good chat, smiles = let’s hear what you’ve got.
Bad chat, frowns = let’s get this over with.
It seems a pretty dumb way to do business, so what can we do about it?
If you are pitching: think about your chat. I don’t mean rehearse it or try to be someone you’re not. Both will ring false and that’s a terrible impression to make. Instead, do your homework about the person you’re pitching to and ask a conversational question about some piece of work they’re likely to be proud of. So, for example “how’s [XXX] doing, I’ve seen some great reviews.” This gives them a chance to feel good and some of that good vibe will rub off on you. It also shows you’re interested in what works for them, not just pushing your own agenda.
If you are being pitched to: I’m tempted to say “grow up”. But let’s be honest, most of us like working with people we feel comfortable with. It’s called “in-group bias”.
But can you think of a better way to let unconscious biases flourish than to allow yourself to be swayed by pre-pitch chat? And can you think of a better way to undermine diversity than to ignore an unconscious bias in favour of people who look or sound like you?
Before the pitch try saying to yourself “Whether I like this person or not has no bearing on the quality of his/her idea.” Better still you could say to yourself “If I don’t feel comfortable with this person it maybe because he/she sees the world differently to me. Maybe their idea will push me out of my comfort zone.”
Just by acknowledging your own biases, you’re half way to beating them.
Does this kind of pre-pitch chat happen in other industries? How does anyone else deal with it?
Also useful – 6 Questions Any Pitch Should Answer and Pitch Perfect.
Psychologists have found a strong unconscious bias AGAINST creativity that pops up when people are evaluating new ideas. This means no matter how much your boss tells you he/she wants fresh thinking, their gut instinct makes them treat new ideas like a bad smell. Sound familiar?
Unconscious biases are preferences and prejudices that we don’t know we have. For example, you might be unconsciously wary of someone with Arab Muslim heritage – even though you’re not racist – simply because of all the terrible news coverage of terrorism since 9/11.
You can test for unconscious bias (links at the bottom if you’re interested), and so the authors of this study did exactly that. They tested if people unconsciously preferred practical ideas over more radical ones. Here’s what they found:
“Just as people have deeply-rooted biases against people of a certain age, race or gender that are not necessarily overt, so too can people hold deeply-rooted negative views of creativity that are not openly acknowledged.”
This hidden bias against creativity got worse when the test subjects were put into situations of uncertainty.
We all talk about the importance of creativity. But unless you’re the kind of person who loves uncertainty, you may unconsciously prefer ideas that are safe, unoriginal and practical. I reckon this is why bringing new ideas to life feels like such an uphill struggle.
The authors conclude “our results suggest that if people have difficulty gaining acceptance for creative ideas especially when more practical and unoriginal options are readily available, the field of creativity may need to shift its current focus from identifying how to generate more creative ideas to identifying how to help innovative institutions recognize and accept creativity.”
Here’s one technique that might help people around you be more accepting of your creativity – move your doubters from “How” to “Why”
Credit: “The Bias Against Creativity” by Mueller, Melwani & Goncalo
Test your own unconscious biases here.